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Virginia Awarded $17.5 Million Preschool Expansion Grant

Richmond, VA - Governor Terry McAuliffe announced today that Virginia has been awarded a $17.5 million federal Preschool Expansion Grant that will allow the Commonwealth to serve as many as 1,600 additional at-risk four-year-olds in new, high-quality preschool classes. The grant will also fund enhanced services to approximately 1,400 children in existing pre-kindergarten classrooms.

"Expanding preschool is essential to ensure that all Virginians regardless of income or background acquire the education and skills they'll need to participate and succeed in the new Virginia economy of the 21st century," Governor McAuliffe said.

The grant from the U.S. Department of Education will support expansion and improvement of the Virginia Preschool Initiative (VPI) in 11 high-needs school divisions beginning in the 2015-2016 school year. VPI is a state-funded program that currently supports quality preschool programs for approximately 18,000 at-risk four-year-olds.

The selected divisions will offer focused outreach to families and communities, as well as individualized support for children with unique learning needs, including students with disabilities, English-language learners and children from military families. This combination of instruction, outreach and support will be known as VPI Plus.

The divisions were selected based on the following indicators of need: poverty, number of Title I schools, percentage of children entering kindergarten below the state's literacy readiness benchmark and the number of un-served at-risk four-year-olds. Together, the divisions have committed to establishing 88 VPI Plus classrooms and improving services for children in 94 existing preschool classes.

"Kindergarten readiness is the critical first step toward college and career readiness," Superintendent of Public Instruction Steven R. Staples said. "Children who enter kindergarten with a solid foundation for learning are more likely to read on grade level by third grade and keep pace with their peers."

The grant also will fund a state-level effort led by the Center for Advanced Study of Teaching and Learning at the University of Virginia (UVA) to improve preparation and professional development for preschool teachers and administrators.

The Virginia Early Childhood Foundation (VECF) led the commonwealth's grant application effort. Virginia is one of 18 states to receive either a preschool expansion or preschool development grant.

The Virginia Department of Education will lead the implementation of the Commonwealth's Preschool Expansion Grant, in partnership with the Virginia Department of Social Services, the Virginia Department of Health, UVA and VECF.

Participating divisions include: Brunswick County, Chesterfield County, Fairfax County, Giles County, Henrico County, Norfolk, Petersburg, Prince William County, Richmond, Sussex County, and Winchester.

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